The Princess Elopes (Chapter III, page 1 of 16)


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The Princess Hildegarde of Barscheit! My gloves and riding-crop
slipped from my nerveless fingers to the floor. A numbing, wilting
sensation wrinkled my spine. The Princess Hildegarde of Barscheit!
She stood opposite me, the woman--ought I not to say girl?--for whom I
had been seeking, after a fashion, all these months! The beautiful
madcap who took the duchy by the ears, every now and then, and tweaked
them! The princess herself, here in this lonely old castle into which
I had so carelessly stumbled! Romance, enchantment! Oddly enough, the
picture of her riding a bicycle flashed through my brain, and this was
followed by another, equally engaging, of the hussar who rode
cross-country, to the horror of the conservative element at court.

"The Princess Hildegarde!" I murmured stupidly.

"Yes. I have asked you a question, sir. Or shall I put the question
in French?"--ironically. "Was it the duke who sent you here?"

There was a look in her superb eyes which told me that it would have
been to her infinite pleasure to run a sword through my black and
villainous heart. Presently I recovered. With forced calm I stooped
and collected my gloves and crop.

"Your Highness, what the deuce has the duke to do with my affairs, or I
with his? As an American, you would scarcely expect me to meddle with
your private affairs. You are the last person in the world I thought
to meet this night. I represent the United States in this country, and
though I am inordinately young, I have acquired the habit of attending
to my own affairs."

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